Contributed Photo/Courtesy Brando Quinn: Stonehenge at Salisbury Wiltshire, England was one stop on the United Kingdom cruise and adventure.
Column By Brando Quinn of Brando’s Fun N’ Sun Travel an Independent Affiliate of Avoya Travel
My wife Janet Quinn of “Trophies N’ Tees” and I recently returned from a fabulous cruise and adventure that took us throughout the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Ireland; her number one bucket list trip! We began planning our trip after completing our DNA tests from Ancestry.com which came back to us with plenty of information on where our ancestors migrated to America from. Both sides of our family contained plenty of United Kingdom, Scotland, and Ireland history including the fact that both of our 14th great-grandfathers’ was King James I, who was also the 9th great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II.
We planned to visit London for four days, prior to embarking aboard the Norwegian Dawn for a 10-day cruise which would then sail from Southampton U.K. to Portland/Weymouth U.K., Cobh Ireland, Dun Laoghaire Ireland, Belfast Ireland, Kirkwall, Invergordon, and Edinburgh Scotland, Zeebrugge Belgium, and Amsterdam Netherlands.
Airline choice? We chose to fly non-stop aboard American Airlines from Phoenix to London Heathrow Airport, which services more than 50 countries around the globe and is a founding member of the One World Global Alliance. They have partnered with the convenient Verifly APP which allows you to upload any documents needed prior to arrival at the airport making check-in at the airport a breeze. We insured our trip through Allianz Global Travel Insurance for the “Peace of Mind” it gives you knowing you are covered for the unexpected.
After arriving in London, our pre-arranged ATN Transfers driver was waiting for us inside baggage claim with our name on his sign, we introduced ourselves and he whisked us away to our Hotel about a 40-minute drive away. The NCL pre-cruise hotel is the “Millennium Gloucester Hotel London Kensington”, a beautiful and conveniently located Hotel in the Kensington district, about 350 feet from the Gloucester Road Tube Station and just a short walk from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It offers elegant, air-conditioned rooms, a wide array of on-site dining options, and a fitness room.
While in London we rode the (Tube) subway from our hotel to see, “The Phantom of the Opera” at her Queen the Majesty’s Theater, the West End’s most enduring love story starring Olivier Award nominee Killian Donnelly as the Phantom, Lucy St. Louis as Christine Daae’, and Rhys Whitfield as Raoul.
The following day we visited Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey watched the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, and viewed the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews.
We then ended our final day of tours outside of London and ventured to Windsor Castle the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world built in 1066 by William I in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of England and one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s three official residences. Next, Cambridge a city on the river Cam in eastern England, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge, dating to 1209. University colleges include King’s, famed for its choir and towering Gothic chapel, as well as Trinity, founded by Henry VIII, and St John’s, with its 16th-century Great Gate. And, finally, the City of Ely. Janet’s maiden name is “Ely”, and we had to make a last stop at the “Ely Cathedral” a few miles from Cambridge. This magnificent structure was formally the “Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity”, an Anglican cathedral in the city of Ely, Cambridgeshire, England which has its origins in AD 672 when St Etheldreda built an abbey church.
The following day, Norwegian Cruises Shuttle Services took us from our Hotel to Southampton where we would embark aboard the NCL Dawn which has a passenger capacity of about 2,200 guests and was last refurbished in 2016. With more than 21 restaurants, swimming pools, jacuzzies, and plenty of activities and entertainment, we were delighted to be spending the next 10 days aboard our floating hotel. Since this was Janet’s number one bucket list trip, we splurged a little bit extra and got a suite with a private balcony cabin, which came complete with our own private butler (Jonathan) and his 24-hour available service, a dedicated cabin steward (Arnold), and a concierge (Bruno), who made it easy to get on and off the ship for shore excursions. Yes, we were spoiled for 10 days!
Onboard entertainment and restaurants galore! NCL Cruises brings aboard the brightest most talented world-renowned chefs to satisfy your tastes with mouthwatering dishes, and the ablest musicians and performers in the world to dazzle and entertain. Over the course of our cruise, we ate at the specialty dining restaurants and complimentary restaurants; Cagney’s Steakhouse, La Cucina Italian, Le Bistro French, Los Lobos Spanish, Moderno Brazilian, Sushi house, Aqua & Venetian complimentary restaurants, and were entertained by the Chefs at Teppanyaki with their knife-wielding cook right in front of you show!
The entertainment was exhilarating; on night one, we were entertained by John Nations, probably the best juggler in the world, the Dawn Production Cast celebrated each show with plenty of Motown, Rock n’ Roll, British Invasion songs, and more! And, as a special treat, Josh Henderson an international award-winning vocalist best known for his impersonation of Freddie Mercury from “Queen” delighted us with a dazzling show that was indeed flawless. Other acts included an acrobatic duo with aerial spinning through the air more than 50 feet high without safety nets, a magic memory show by Feng Zhangm from China, and more!
On Sept. 8, 2022, as we were sailing to our next destination, the ship’s table Captain announced, “Queen Elizabeth II has just died”. The mood became somber, and we realized our beloved distant cousin and Queen who has ruled for more than 70 years would no longer be with us. In gratitude we gave her Majesty moments of silence and memories flowed of visiting places the Queen had once lived or visited herself that we too had visited, and we vowed to be forever grateful this wonderful Monarch lived during our lifetime. She is truly missed.
Shore Excursions from NCL Cruises! I’m a true advocate of utilizing the cruise line shore excursions department when traveling aboard a cruise ship. The vendors have been vetted, tickets are delivered directly to your stateroom, and you are guaranteed the ship will wait for you to re-board even if your tour is delayed for any reason, giving us peace of mind.
Our shore excursions included the Stonehenge & Salisbury excursion from Portland UK, we kissed the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle & Cork Ireland, visited Powerscourt Castle & Gardens, and strolled through Dublin, Ireland, sank some of our time at the amazing Titanic Museum in Belfast, saw the Ancient Treasures of Orkney in Kirkwall, Scotland, searched for “Nessie” on the Best of the Highlands Castles and Loch Ness Tour in Inverness, and more! Our tour guides were full of knowledge and some Blarney, and each one delighted us with stories of the past, present, and future of the United Kingdom.
Our cruise ended in Amsterdam, and we flew back home with a renewed appreciation of our cultural family heritage, new memories of the people we had just met in the United Kingdom, Scotland, and Ireland, and gratitude for the dedication of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign in our world. Our United Kingdom cruise and adventure had ended, but the memories of our adventure will live on!
Brando Quinn is the Master Cruise Counselor for Brando’s Fun-N-Sun Travel an Independent agency in the Avoya Travel Network, based at 513 W. Main St., Safford, Arizona, (928) 322-3271, www.AvoyaTravel.com/IA/BrandoQuinn